Despite the latest barbs being tossed around by the three leaders in the B.C. Liberal leadership race, one of contestants, George Abbott, says he’s happy with the tenor of the contest.
Abbott, who insists he is running a strong second to frontrunner Christy Clark, said Wednesday in Lake Country, during his fourth visit to the area since the campaign began, that unlike the NDP’s current leadership race, the Liberal campaign is “amicable. Sure, there have been sparks. But the occasional spark is fine,” said the former health and aboriginal relations minister.
Abbott was in Lake Country to announce his proposal for a $1,000 per year tax credit for families who look after senior relatives in their own home.
The first signs that the race to succeed Gordon Campbell as Liberal leader and B.C. premier later this month was getting personal surfaced last week when Clark challenged another candidate, her former cabinet colleague Kevin Falcon, over his ties to business leaders. Falcon shot back saying he expected such criticism from the opposition NDP, not a fellow Liberal.
On Wednesday, after Clark reversed her earlier suggestion that MLAs, not the public, vote on the future of the HST, both Abbott and Falcon publicly accused her of “flip-flopping.”
But earlier in the day, Abbott said it is important that whoever wins the Liberal leadership is supported by all in the party and that Liberals come out of the contest united.
To that end, he said, at the start of the contest, he called all the other candidates and said if any of them won he would be happy to serve in a government lead by that person.
Abbott told reporters Wednesday, because of decisions made by the Liberal government in the last 18 months, he does not believe his party could win a snap election and the new leader will need the 2 1/2 years until the next scheduled provincial election in 2013 to win back the trust of voters.
But while he criticized the “poor” job the government has done in recent months when it came to introducing programs, Abbott refused to drop the burden of blame on outgoing Premier Gordon Campbell.
Since he was in cabinet for 10 years he admitted he, along with the other former cabinet ministers in the race, have to shoulder part of the blame for the current low fortunes of the B.C. Liberal Party. And he is blunt about the challenges his party faces.
“We have lost a lot of trust and confidence from voters and we need to win that back,” he said.
To that end, all the candidates are proposing policies to not only appeal to the Liberal Party members who will vote for the new leader but also to the general voting public.
Abbott’s new seniors policy is an example.
Created with the help of local MLA and leadership bid supporter Norm Letnick, it includes the creation of the new B.C. primary caregiver tax credit; appointment of a Minister of State for seniors; lobbying the federal government for the creation of a registered medical savings plan similar to registered retirement saving plans; providing more funding for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease research; creation of low-cost college and university opportunities for seniors; and improvement of end-of-life services within the medical system.
Abbott also wants to see the current review of residential care rates accelerated.